Updated Nov. 20
Former Vineyard physician Peter Laursen appeared in Edgartown District Court on Friday, and admitted he fondled two women at a Camp Jabberwocky fundraiser in July.
In a plea deal, Dr. Laursen, 71, admitted sufficient facts to two counts of indecent assault on a person 14 years or older. According to assistant district attorney Dana White, Dr. Laursen fondled the chests and lower backs of two women at the event. “Both these individuals were shocked and very uncomfortable,” Ms. White said.
Represented by John Amabile of Brockton and Jennifer Marcus of West Tisbury, Dr. Laursen agreed to the change of plea. His case will be continued without a finding for a decade concurrent with probation. Judge James McGovern ordered Dr. Laursen to submit to random alcohol testing for the first three years of his probation period, to keep away from the two victims and Camp Jabberwocky, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, and to continue counseling.
Dr. Laursen was not required to register as a sex offender because his admission of sufficient facts is not considered a guilty finding. Furthermore, he was evaluated by a forensic mental health expert deemed a low recidivism risk, Mr. Amabile told The Times.
One of the victims was 70 years old while the other was 16. The Superior Court normally holds jurisdiction over such a charge as Mr. Laursen faced when the victim is a senior. However, Ms. Marcus told The Times in a telephone interview that both the prosecution and the defense agreed to amend the charge so the entire case could be heard in district court.
Judge McGovern went to great lengths to explain to Dr. Laursen that by accepting a plea agreement, he was waiving his right to a jury trial. Dr. Laursen was allowed to walk past the bar to the edge of the bench to better listen to the judge’s words after his attorneys explained he has hearing problems. He acknowledged that he was giving up his right to a trial and further acknowledged that the charges against him were correct.
“Are those facts true?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Laursen replied.
His attorneys asked if he could travel to visit his children, and noted he has long lived on the Vineyard and shouldn’t be considered a flight risk. The judge allowed him to visit his children out of state for the first three years of his probation provided he informed the probation department. For the remainder of his probation, Judge McGovern placed no limitations on his travel save for providing the same probation notice.
Judge McGovern warned Dr. Laursen that should he be convicted of a crime during his probation period, the status of “continued without a finding” of his charges would change to “guilty” and he would be incarcerated.
Judge McGovern was able to “come to what he felt was appropriate after after hearing from both sides,” Ms. Marcus said. Numerous letters of support from friends, former colleagues, and former patients “gave the judge a fuller picture,” she said. She noted her Post Office box was stuffed with letters of support, and that almost everywhere she she goes, people come up to her and speak favorably of Dr. Laursen, citing his professionalism and appropriateness. Part of his 40-year medical career included service at the Dukes County House of Corrections physician for 38 years, she said.
In May, the Board of Registration in Medicine announced that Dr. Laursen had permanently surrendered his license as part of disciplinary action against him. The Times received a redacted six-page disciplinary report through a public records request that indicated a patient complained that during an examination, the doctor “rubbed her back and touched her buttocks.” Dr. Laursen denied the allegation, according to the report.
In a brief telephone interview with The Times in August, Dr. Laursen denied the allegations that went before the medical board. “I thought that was 99 percent wrong,” he said of that investigation. “That’s never gone anywhere. After 41 years in practice, now I’m retired, I never had a malpractice suit and never had a complaint.”
Updated to amend Dr. Laursen’s probation requirements and more details about the plea agreement.